A brief overview of flight control software

Igor Mišić May 3, 20191 comment

It has been a long time since the first drones appeared.If you are interested in such a topic, you may be confused about how and where to jump in. Since I went through the same phase, I'd like to write my findings here and help others.

For this blog post, I've created chart and table with all open source flight control programs I've been able to find.

The chart shows the course of development of the existing software. It is separated in years and you can see when which project...

Debugging DSP code.

Mark Browne May 1, 2019

I am fascinated with neural network processing and have been playing with them since the 80's.

I am a frequent contributor to the Numenta forum. Numenta is the current project of Jeff Hawins, the guy that gave us the Palm Pilot. They are working with the HTM model. This is a system based on studies of the functions of the cortical column and has some very interesting properties: It processes sequential data streams and has very effective one shot learning. The data is arranged in Sparse...

Mutex vs. Semaphore - Part 1

Niall Cooling April 12, 20195 comments

It never ceases to amaze me how often I see postings in forums asking the difference between a semaphore and a mutex. Probably what baffles me more is that over 90% of the time the responses given are either incorrect or missing the key differences. The most often quoted response is that of the “The Toilet Example (c) Copyright 2005, Niclas Winquist” . This summarises the differences as:

  • A mutex is really a semaphore with value 1

No, no, and no again....

AI at the Edge - Can I run a neural network in a resource-constrained device?

Stephen Martin March 11, 2019

Hello Related Communities,

This is my first time blogging since joining Stephane in November. He and I were at Embedded World together and he asked me to write about some of the important trends as they relate to all of you. I expect to post others in the near future, but the biggest trend in the embedded space was all of the activity around artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge. 

This trend caught me a bit by surprise. I have been doing a lot of reading about AI over the last...

Embedded Programming Video Course Teaches RTOS

Miro Samek January 20, 2019

If you'd like to understand how a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) really works, here is a free video course for you:

RTOS part-1: In this first lesson on RTOS you will see how to extend the foreground/background architecture from the previous lesson, so that you can have multiple background loops running seemingly simultaneously.:

RTOS part-2: In this second lesson on RTOS you will see how to automate the context switch process. Specifically, in this lesson, you will start building...

The Hardest Bug I Never Solved

Matthew Eshleman December 27, 20188 comments

I agreed to four hours. 

Four hours to help hunt down and kill a bug. A terrible malicious bug that was eating away at this project, wreaking havoc upon the foundations of a critical feature, and draining time randomly from every one of eight firmware engineers on this project. Quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time it took more than an hour or two for me to locate, isolate, and fix a firmware bug. Surely I could help find and solve this issue within four...

Is it a Bug or an Error?

Michael Barr January 31, 20184 comments

Probably you’ve heard the story of how Adm. Grace Hopper attached a moth that was dislodged from a relay in the Harvard Mark II mainframe to an engineering notebook and labeled it the “First actual case of bug being found.”

Designers of electronics, including Thomas Edison, had been using the term bug for decades. But it was mostly after this amusing 1947 event hat the use of words like “bugs” and “debugging” took off in the emerging software realm.

So why is it that if a...

Lazy Properties in Python Using Descriptors

Jason Sachs November 7, 2017

This is a bit of a side tangent from my normal at-least-vaguely-embedded-related articles, but I wanted to share a moment of enlightenment I had recently about descriptors in Python. The easiest way to explain a descriptor is a way to outsource attribute lookup and modification.

Python has a bunch of “magic” methods that are hooks into various object-oriented mechanisms that let you do all sorts of ridiculously clever things. Whether or not they’re a good idea is another...

Android for Embedded Devices - 5 Reasons why Android is used in Embedded Devices

Maharajan Veerabahu November 6, 20173 comments

The embedded purists are going to hate me for this. How can you even think of using Android on an embedded system ? It’s after all a mobile phone operating system/software. 

Sigh !! Yes I did not like Android to begin with, as well - for use on an Embedded System. But sometimes I think the market and needs decide what has to be used and what should not be. This is one such thing. Over the past few years, I have learned to love Android as an embedded operating system....

Introduction to Deep Insight Analysis for RTOS Based Applications

Jacob Beningo September 20, 20171 comment

Over the past several years, embedded systems have become extremely complex. As systems become more complex, they become harder and more time consuming to debug. It isn’t uncommon for development teams to spend more than 40% development cycle time just debugging their systems. This is where deep insight analysis has the potential to dramatically decrease costs and time to market.

Defining Deep Insight Analysis

Deep insight analysis is a set of tools and techniques that can be...

Using the Beaglebone PRU to achieve realtime at low cost

Fabien Le Mentec April 25, 20148 comments

I work as an engineer in a synchrotron facility. A few weeks ago, I helped the people in charge of the power supply developments to integrate a realtime control algorithm on a prototype platform: a BeagleBone Black (BBB) running Linux. I had already worked with this board in the past, and I found it very interesting given its excellent resources versus price ratio (around 40 euros). This time, I was impressed by its realtime capabilities. I thought it would be a good idea to...

Analyzing the Linker Map file with a little help from the ELF and the DWARF

Govind Mukundan December 27, 201516 comments

When you're writing firmware, there always comes a time when you need to check the resources consumed by your efforts - perhaps because you're running out of RAM or Flash or you want to optimize something. The map file generated by your linker is a useful tool to aid in the resource analysis. I wanted to filter and sort the data generated in an interactive way so I wrote a C# WinForms application that reads the data from the map and presents it in a list view (using the awesome

Chebyshev Approximation and How It Can Help You Save Money, Win Friends, and Influence People

Jason Sachs September 30, 201219 comments

Well... maybe that's a stretch. I don't think I can recommend anything to help you win friends. Not my forte.

But I am going to try to convince you why you should know about Chebyshev approximation, which is a technique for figuring out how you can come as close as possible to computing the result of a mathematical function, with a minimal amount of design effort and CPU power. Let's explore two use cases:

  • Amy has a low-power 8-bit microcontroller and needs to compute \( \sqrt{x} \)...

Coroutines in one page of C

Yossi Kreinin August 20, 201315 comments

A coroutine is a function that you can jump back into after returning from it - and it remembers where it was in the code, and all the variables. This is very useful at times.

One use is generating a sequence of values. Here's how you can generate all the x,y pairs in a 2D range in Python:

def iterate(max_x, max_y): for x in range(max_x): for y in range(max_y): yield x,y for x,y in iterate(2,2): print x,y

This prints:

0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1

The yield keyword is like...

Using the C language to program the am335x PRU

Fabien Le Mentec June 7, 201480 comments

Some weeks ago, I published an article on how we used the PRU to implement a power supply control loop having hard realtime constraints:


Writing this kind of logic in assembly language is not easy. First the assembly language itself may be difficult to learn depending on your background. Then, fixed and floating point arithmetics require lot of code. While macros help to handle the complexity, they still are error prone as you...

10 Software Tools You Should Know

Jason Sachs May 20, 201215 comments

Unless you're designing small analog electronic circuits, it's pretty hard these days to get things done in embedded systems design without the help of computers. I thought I'd share a list of software tools that help me get my job done. Most of these are free or inexpensive. Most of them are also for working with software. If you never have to design, read, or edit any software, then you're one of a few people that won't benefit from reading this. 

Disclaimer: the "best" software...

Important Programming Concepts (Even on Embedded Systems) Part I: Idempotence

Jason Sachs August 26, 20144 comments

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of subtle concepts that contribute to high quality software design. Many of them are well-known, and can be found in books or the Internet. I’m going to highlight a few of the ones I think are important and often overlooked.

But first let’s start with a short diversion. I’m going to make a bold statement: unless you’re a novice, there’s at least one thing in computer programming about which you’ve picked up...

C++ on microcontrollers 1 - introduction, and an output pin class

Wouter van Ooijen October 9, 20117 comments


This blog series is about the use of C++ for modern microcontrollers. My plan is to show the gradual development of a basic I/O library. I will introduce the object-oriented C++ features that are used step by step, to provide a gentle yet practical introduction into C++ for C programmers.  Reader input is very much appreciated, you might even steer me in the direction you find most interesting.

I am lazy. I am also a programmer. Luckily, being a lazy...

Understanding and Preventing Overflow (I Had Too Much to Add Last Night)

Jason Sachs December 4, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Maybe the memory of eating too much turkey is fresh in your mind. If so, this would be a good time to talk about overflow.

In the world of floating-point arithmetic, overflow is possible but not particularly common. You can get it when numbers become too large; IEEE double-precision floating-point numbers support a range of just under 21024, and if you go beyond that you have problems:

for k in [10, 100, 1000, 1020, 1023, 1023.9, 1023.9999, 1024]: try: ...

Zebras Hate You For No Reason: Why Amdahl's Law is Misleading in a World of Cats (And Maybe in Ours Too)

Jason Sachs February 27, 20171 comment

I’ve been wasting far too much of my free time lately on this stupid addicting game called the Kittens Game. It starts so innocently. You are a kitten in a catnip forest. Gather catnip.

And you click on Gather catnip and off you go. Soon you’re hunting unicorns and building Huts and studying Mathematics and Theology and so on. AND IT’S JUST A TEXT GAME! HTML and Javascript, that’s it, no pictures. It’s an example of an